Ed: 40: March/2015
We are witnessing the struggle to define Islam in the modern age. This is the most crucial battle raging today in the world and the most important divide on the global landscape. It's a clash between a forward leaning tolerant enlightened reading of the holy texts, and the medieval fundamentalist and jihadist ideology offered by the likes of the IS, and in a partially similar way by some of the Shi'ites such as the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies Hezbollah. Will Islam be a guide to life, or a ritual of death?
Many people may have thought that Holocaust denial had been relegated to the dustbins of history - discredited by historical evidence, academics, court cases and the testimonies of survivors. However, on the internet, it is alive and even flourishing, especially on social media. It is now increasingly common on mainstream Australian websites and social media platforms.
While there is clearly much uncertainty about the upcoming election, there are some core policy continuities we can confidently ascribe to the next government - policies that are shared between the centre-left Zionist Camp and centre-right Likud - the two political factions that appear to be the only ones with realistic chances of, separately or jointly, forming the nucleus of the next government.
That government, regardless of who leads it, will continue to support efforts to make genuine, secure, lasting peace with the Palestinians based on a two-state outcome.
The question we must ask, as observers of the world, is why this conflict has come over time to draw more attention than any other, and why it is presented as it is. How have the doings in a country that constitutes 0.01% of the world's surface become the focus of angst, loathing, and condemnation more than any other? We must ask how Israelis and Palestinians have become the stylised symbol of conflict, of strong and weak, the parallel bars upon which the intellectual Olympians of the West perform their tricks...
British Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles recently made an important point about the surge in antisemitic attacks which has been documented in Britain over the past two years: "These pernicious crimes have been accompanied by a creeping cultural acceptance of antisemitic attitudes and behaviour." Noting a series of antisemitic incidents which were ostensibly claimed to be related to Israel, he added, "These acts of antisemitism were almost casual."
On a sunny mid-winter's afternoon in Jerusalem, a group of travellers stopped a passerby and asked for the direction of Mecca. After a brief, friendly exchange, the men and women began afternoon prayers - in Yad Vashem, Israel's Museum and Monument to the victims of the Nazis' genocide. Later, those same people, most of whom began the day with only a cursory idea about Jews, European history or Nazism, participated in a dignified, emotional wreath laying ceremony in Yad Vashem's Hall of Remembrance.
My belated entry to the Twitter-sphere was prompted by a late-night BBC political chat show which featured a highly articulate Muslim apologist. She argued passionately that, by abusing free speech, Charlie Hebdo had itself incited the attack which killed eight of the magazine's staffers. My tweet to the programme's host expressed surprise that the killing of four Jews in a related attack at the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris had been forgotten so soon.
I was unprepared for the swift response that my tweet elicited from "Porky Scratchings", who urged the television host to ignore the Jews... "Not the bloody Jews," he/she wrote. "It's always about the Jews. They just seek publicity."
Back when it arrived unscheduled in December, many expected Israel's 20th general election to focus on domestic issues.
Triggered by the finance minister's dismissal and animated by a 6.5% climb in housing prices during the outgoing government's brief incumbency, many braced for an election dominated by prices, budgets, welfare and jobs.
In practice, the economy has been elbowed aside by a diplomatic row in Washington over a proposed address to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin "Bibi" Netanyahu.
Though Israeli voters will be casting their ballots on March 17 for party lists, they'll doubtless have the men and women at the top of those parties' lists in mind. So here's an opportunity to get to know the party leaders a little better...
Over five months after last summer's Gaza conflict ended, reconstruction of the territory has effectively ground to a halt, with the UN-designed postwar framework failing to move beyond its first phase. While recent statements by some international officials have put the onus on the donor community for failing to deliver on pledges, the reality is that continued divisions between Hamas and Fatah are the primary obstacle.